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Game Day Central: Blue Jackets vs. Penguins

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan

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LISTEN: Ryan Johansen visits with the Blue Jackets radio network during tonight's second intermission. Click here to listen!

If there's one thing Todd Richards and the Blue Jackets are seeking in the third period, it's more shots at the net. Columbus has just 10 shots through 40 minutes here at Nationwide Arena, trailing the Penguins 1-0 on Deryk Engelland's second goal of the season. The tally came on a delayed penalty to Jack Johnson, and Joe Vitale took advantage. He made a nice pass from the goal line to Engelland in the right circle, and he ripped a quick shot over McElhinney's glove hand at 6:46. Pittsburgh has 22 shots so far and they've enjoyed some time on the power play, as well, but the Jackets have to commit to a "pucks to the net" attitude in the final 20 minutes. Zatkoff has not been tested nearly enough to this point, while McElhinney has been tremendous for the Jackets.

Here's the call of Curtis McElhinney's second period save on Sidney Crosby - his best of the night so far ---> click HERE!

First period highlights from Jackets-Penguins tonight in Columbus ---> click HERE!

Electric atmosphere inside Nationwide Arena tonight and the place was buzzing when the warm-up started just past 6:30 p.m. Both teams played a tad sloppy in the opening period and committed some turnovers, making for a chance-for-chance type of period. The Blue Jackets only registered three shots on goal in the first period but could have had a few more; Anisimov opted to pass on a pair of chances in the Penguins zone, the latest being a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Dubinsky. Kris Letang made a nice play to break it up, but the Jackets are playing a much tighter game to this point and they've gotten some opportunities at the other end as a result.

UPDATE (6:40 PM):
Warm-ups are almost complete here at Nationwide Arena. Curtis McElhinney and Jeff Zatkoff will be your starting goaltenders tonight for the Jackets and Penguins, who wrap up their home-and-home series this evening.

By the looks of things, David Savard will be scratched on defense and Nikita Nikitin will rejoin the lineup. Here are the expected pairings, based on the warm-up:


Forward lines are the same as used last night in Pittsburgh, but as we all know, that can change in the first period or after the first shift.

Face-off in 25 minutes!

UPDATE (2:30 PM):
Jared Boll met with the media after today's optional skate to discuss the Jackets' rematch with the Penguins.

UPDATE (2:15 PM):
Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson chatted with Jackets TV this morning about how the team plans to rebound after last night's loss. 

UPDATE (11:45 AM):
Nikita Nikitin will return to the lineup and play his first game since Oct. 19, Richards confirmed this morning. That means the Jackets have to make a scratch on the blue line, but Richards has not yet decided who that will be.

UPDATE (11:30 AM):
Richards said he was moderately pleased with his team's ability to execute in the defensive zone and neutral zone last night: "Specialty teams were a big difference: they scored two and obviously we didn't get any. I thought we were able to neutralize some of their speed through the neutral zone. Offensively I thought we did some good things but I don't think we did a good enough job getting to the net. We were around the net at times but we need that second effort to fight for position in front of their net, and make it difficult on their goalie."

UPDATE (11:15 AM):
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards announced that Curtis McElhinney, who relieved Bobrovsky three minutes into the second period last night, will start against Pittsburgh tonight. It's his second start of the season.

Richards on the decision: "I had an idea (of who would start) last night. The more I thought about it, and by the time I got on the plane...the decision was made."

Richards on Bobrovsky's game: "Last year, he played at such a high level and for extended time. He really galvanized a team through his play. Right now, his game isn't (where it needs to be). How far off is he? That's tough for me to say because I've seen him this year, and he's played some good  games and made some big saves for us. Going back to last year, I think we saw some things last year when we were fluctuating between Mason and Bobrovsky and seeing who was going establish themselves as our No. 1 guy. One thing I know about Bob is he takes a lot of pride in his game, he takes a lot of pride in how he does things. He's a worker and I know he's not happy with his game."

On the second night of back-to-back games, the Blue Jackets are scheduled for an optional morning skate at 10:30 a.m. at Nationwide Arena. We'll have the latest news on tonight's lineup, starting goalies (if available at that time) and more coverage right here at Game Day Central.

On the heels of last night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was contemplating some roster changes for the second half of this weekend's home-and-home series.

He was asked directly about changing goaltenders after Sergei Bobrovsky allowed three goals on 13 shots, but Richards reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that it was something he and the coaches would discuss in the hours leading up to Saturday's game. On one hand, Bobrovsky struggled but he should be well-rested and motivated to have another crack at the Penguins. 

On the back end, Richards also said it's possible that Nikita Nikitin could get back into the lineup on Saturday. The big Russian blue liner hasn't played since the Jackets' 4-1 loss in Washington on October 19, but it's unclear at this point who would sit if Nikitin plays.

While the Blue Jackets didn't play their worst game of the season last night, they know there are certain areas of their game that need cleaned up if they're to bounce back tonight.

For most of the first period, they managed the puck well against a Penguins team that makes you pay for mistakes. The special teams battle favored the Penguins and they opened the scoring seven minutes into the game on a power play goal, and coupled with the Jackets' inability to cash in on the power play, Pittsburgh's pair of power play tallies went a long way toward securing two points on Friday.

Back on home ice, it's even more important for the Blue Jackets to establish their forechecking game tonight and set the tone. Much like RJ Umberger said prior to Friday's game, for the Jackets to have success against the Penguins, they have to make a it physical game and make them work for every inch of the ice; also atop the priority list is to limit their time in the penalty box and keep the potent Pittsburgh power play off the ice.

And in the grand scheme, it's another opportunity for the Blue Jackets to take a step up the ladder in the Metropolitan Division.

With 10 points to their credit, the Jackets (5-7-0) have another stretch of four straight home games on deck beginning tonight, making a strong rebound performance rather significant. Aside from the Penguins, no team has really pulled away from the pack in the division, and there are 4-5 teams jockeying for the second and third playoff spots in the Metropolitan.

For the Penguins, Jeff Zatkoff is expected to get the start in Columbus tonight. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said previously that he'd like to get both of his goaltenders into action this weekend, making it possible that tonight's game at Nationwide Arena could be a battle of the back-ups.



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